JONATHAN CHAIT MAY 28, 2010
The spittle-flacked National Review contributor claims to have a list of all the times President Obama has used the word terror. Conor Friedersdorf, beginning the dark and lonely work of fact-checking McCarthy's crackpot claims, shows that the number is wholly false:
Excerpt number one is titled, “Obama Afraid to Call It a War on Terror.” It begins as follows:
President Obama’s administration has been roundly ridiculed, and deservedly so, for its aversion to the language of war — indeed, for the word war itself. From the Bush language purge, though, it was but a short hop to this sorry destination. Short and inevitable.
Saul Alinsky, Obama’s community-organizing inspiration, waxed at length about language in “Rules for Radicals,” about the power of words to inspire … or to enervate.
The president learned his lessons well: bloodless prolixity deftly imposed from who knows where within Leviathan’s sprawl. It was not the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or even the National Intelligence Directorate but the Office of Management and Budget that advised the Pentagon that the word war is now out.
“This administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror,’ ” said the new, March 2009 guidance. Our warriors were curtly told, “Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’"
The most amusing aspect of this passage is the pejorative invocation of Saul Alinsky, who is cited as if the notion that words have the power to inspire or enervate is a radical leftist insight. As Mr. McCarthy well knows, the power of words is something politicians have understood for the whole of human history. It insults the intelligence of his readers to pretend that it is unique or radical for a politician to marshal them strategically.
The headline and opening passage also leads readers to believe that President Obama is “afraid” to use the word war. Is that true? Let’s peruse his major speeches. Near the beginning of his inaugural address, he said, “That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.” In his most recent State of the Union address, he said, “One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by a severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt.” In the 2009 State of the Union address, he talked about the cost of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying, “For seven years, we have been a nation at war. No longer will we hide its price.”
President Obama goes on:
We are now carefully reviewing our policies in both wars, and I will soon announce a way forward in Iraq that leaves Iraq to its people and responsibly ends this war. And with our friends and allies, we will forge a new and comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat al Qaeda and combat extremism. Because I will not allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away.
There is ample evidence — far more than I’ve quoted — demonstrating that President Obama is perfectly willing to use the word war, and to acknowledge Al Qaeda, the threat from terrorism, and the need to combat extremists half a word away. Mr. McCarthy objects to the strategic renaming of what President Bush called The War on Terrorism, but rather than make a straightforward argument against a change in how we refer to that struggle inside the federal bureaucracy, he dishonestly asserts that President Obama has a radical, ideological opposition to the word war itself, something that would indeed be troubling were it true.